How To Bleach Your Hair Without Ruining It

Photographed by Collins Nai

meet a true miracle product

If there's one thing we can all agree on, it's that bleaching your hair isn't great for it. We've all witnessed the dry, brittle mess that generally results from lightening hair, which is a problem if you want to be blonder or try any of those pretty pastel colors that are so in right now. However, thanks to a new product technology called Olaplex, bleach-related damage—and hair damage in general—is about to be a thing of the past. Yes, really.
There are tons of products that claim to repair hair, from proteins that make it feel stronger to keratin which smooths the cuticle. Those treatments work on a superficial level, making your hair appear healthier without actually healing it. Olaplex, though, works on a cellular level. As Shaun SureThing, lead stylist and co-owner of Seagull Salon, explained to me, "It actually repairs the bonds of hair like little workers coming in and soldering chain links together." It doesn't just make your hair look better; it reconnects the broken chain links in the hair's cells. Pretty cool stuff.
Olaplex contains the ingredient bis-aminopropyl diglycol dimaleate, but if that means nothing to you, Shaun says to think about it as more of a chemical process than an ingredient. He says, "It's a combination of molecules and polymers that that act to seek out the natural disulfite bonds in hair and attach themselves, resulting in strong chain links. It's kind of magic." What this means for your hair is that the damage that occurs from bleach can actually be almost reversed. In fact, it allows colorists to lift significantly more color from hair without worrying about damage: "We can push past yellow into pale yellow and white with the confidence that the hair won't break," Shaun says, "which is key in terms of pastels and platinums."
For the most part, Olaplex is currently used alongside damaging chemical hair treatments. But Shaun says he's seen success from using it on its own. "I've been experimenting with clients who say their hair just won't grow past their shoulders, and it's been amazing. Women who had given up on growing their hair have found new hope." He says that instead of cutting off a few inches of split ends, he treats the ends with Olaplex, and the results are nothing short of amazing—instead of cutting three inches off, he can just cut off one, which lets clients grow their hair longer than ever before. 
So, after hearing about the wonders of Olaplex for a few months, I decided it was time to try it for myself. I asked Shaun to take my warm medium-blonde to an icy, pastel pink/purple—and was promised that despite the fact that this would involve coating my locks in bleach, my hair would be even healthier than it was before.
As of right now, you can only get an Olaplex treatment in salons. It was a three-step process: First, Olaplex was mixed with the lightener, and applied to my head, which repairs the broken bonds in the hair while the color lifts. Then, after the chemical color process was complete, another round of Olaplex was applied. Shaun clarifies, "This isn't a conditioner. It's more like a second step to make sure the hair bonds and links are set up in a perfect chain." Shaun sent me home with Olaplex #3, which is a take-home product that uses the same technology to maintain the hair between salon visits. I've been using it about once a week like a hair mask on damp hair before I shampoo it. 
So, after my hair was bleached out and dyed a mix of lavender and pale pink using Wella's Illumina Color, Shaun blow dried my hair to reveal pastel locks that were softest, strongest, and healthiest my hair has been since I first started dyeing it. And every time I use the take-home Olaplex, it feels even healthier. I've worked in the beauty world for years, and this is one of the very few science-based products that truly delivers on its promise. From now on, I will never let a colorist dye my hair unless they use it. Why damage your hair if you don't have to? While most salons aren't currently advertising whether or not they use it, it doesn't hurt to just call and ask when you book your appointment.
Check out the before and after pictures of my hair in the gallery above. 

Photos by Collins Nai

Before: Brittle, sad blonde. My hair has been bleached and toned so many times, I've lost count.

Nail polish is for novices

Fashion label The Blonds is known for its high-intensity looks that you'd only wear if you wanted to stand out (and who doesn't?). For its runway shows, wild press-on nails are the beauty step that can't be missed. So, since the brand has partnered with CND since it was founded, we thought it best to get prepped for the show with Jan Arnold, CND's co-founder.

See why you should take your nail look from a zero to a 10, in the video above.

Shot by Charlotte Prager
Edited by Gretta Wilson
Produced by Alexandra Hsie
Production Assistant: Polina Buchak
Featuring Jan Arnold of CND Nails and The Blonds



Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

It would've been nice if someone said the word "fat"

Back in November, Rebel Wilson claimed to be the first plus-sized lead in a romantic comedy when she appeared on Ellen to talk about her role in Isn't It Romantic. Wilson was not only wrong, but she was—even if inadvertently—erasing the work of Black plus-size actresses like Queen Latifah and Mo'Nique, both of whom have expansive resumes that include romantic comedies.

Wilson's comment isn't the first example of white women taking up a little too much space in the fat acceptance ethos. It's actually quite common. But there is a reason why women like Wilson—women who are blonde, pretty, successful, and white—get put front and center in calls for body positivity. In the same way that feminism—the movement from which body positivity was born—has often failed to address how gender intersects with other identities like race and class; so, too, has body positivity been championed as a cause for otherwise privileged women. And that's why it's no surprise that Isn't It Romantic, which aspires to be both a spot-on mockery of rom-coms and a celebration of body positivity, is actually a perfect example of how very white both the movie genre and the body positivity movement tend to be.

In the film, Wilson plays Natalie, an architect based in New York, who is single and plus-sized—the archetypal rom-com underdog. Very early on in the movie, she endures the double humiliation of both being hit by a runaway food cart and then accosted by its owner for not stopping it with her "cement truck"-like body. At work, Natalie is similarly disrespected: The office manager hands off troubleshooting tasks to Natalie; another colleague always tasks Natalie to throw out his trash; her assistant Whitney (Betty Gilpin) won't stop watching movies (rom-coms, naturally) while in the office; and Natalie is so afraid to present her ideas for more innovative parking garage designs that she isn't even widely known in the firm as an architect, and is treated like an intern.

But is Natalie just a doormat? Or is it that she isn't asking for what she wants? And isn't very nice about not getting it? If Natalie's life is any example, the bar on suffering is set pretty low for white women. In her personal life, Natalie lives alone with her dog, and seems to be pretty well-off, financially; her best friend is actually her slacker assistant, Whitney, and she's close with another coworker, Josh (Adam Devine), who gives Natalie constant emotional support. She's decidedly anti-romantic, having been told by her mother from a young age that there's no such thing as real-life fairy tales; she's level-headed and practical. But also, she's filled with self-loathing. This leads her to be crass, sarcastic, and disconnected from people. And it was this last part that was hard for me. As a fat Black woman who grew up broke, does not have an assistant, and would get fired if I didn't do my job well, it was hard, if not impossible, to root for her.

For Natalie, though, everything changes when she bangs her head while fighting off a mugger. Her mundane life is tinted through rosy rom-com glasses. Suddenly, all the things that sucked about her life are gone, and everything is beautiful and perfect. But was her life so bad before? It didn't really seem to be.

And yet, looking around the theater at the mostly white, female audience, I accepted that my feelings didn't seem to be shared. But that almost seems to be by design; this feels like a movie for a white, female audience. There is only one person of color in the movie who even has a name: It's Isabelle (Priyanka Chopra), who shows up about halfway through the film—after everything has been rom-com filtered—as a yoga ambassador and swimsuit model. But a name is all Isabella has. A supporting character at best, she doesn't have any connection to anyone other than her white boyfriend, and is sketchily drawn. We learn nothing of her familial or ethnic background, and, even when she is shown at her wedding, there is nobody from her family celebrating with her. This huge oversight is particularly bizarre, given that Natalie has already bemoaned the lack of diversity in romantic films.

Another huge oversight? The presence of the word "fat." I don't think I heard it used a single time. Natalie only references her weight indirectly, by commenting on the appearance of straight-sized women; when talking about her own body, the word "fat" is replaced with "girl like me." But by ignoring this aspect of herself, and refusing to address it head-on, Natalie is succumbing to the same fatphobia that shapes her world, whether she identifies it as being a problem or not.

Before her life becomes a rom-com, Natalie feels invisible at work and in the world. Some of this is certainly her fault, but fatphobia is also at play. Fatphobia chips away at the humanity of fat people from different angles. It means that Natalie gets used to being dehumanized; she doesn't expect others to have empathy for her when she's physically hurt, because they don't value her body. And it's no coincidence that Natalie's fantasy world includes a magically bigger apartment with unlimited clothing options, because discrimination against fat people isn't just a matter aesthetics and preferences—it affects everything from our ability to dress ourselves to our ability to make and save money, since there's a price to pay for being fat, even if it's just having to pay more to travel. Just as much as gender and race intersect with fat bodies, so, too, do economics and class.

I knew I could count on a plus-sized white comedian to take down a genre of films that prioritized thin women. But I ventured to see if Wilson could go further than that, and challenge what it means to be white and well-off and fat in the process; it isn't just about taking down rom-coms but about doing so in a way that isn't just a mouthpiece for white feminist values. But, in the end, that isn't what happened. Isn't It Romantic is fine, but it needed to do more than target an audience of girls who are 10 to 30 pounds overweight and still too jolted by the word "fat" to ever apply it to themselves, so they go for acceptable alternatives, like curvy, plus-sized—or thicc, if they're hip. But I'm not afraid to say I'm fat, I'm just disappointed I will be waiting even longer to see a realistic reflection of that experience onscreen.

Isn't It Romantic is in theaters now.